The British couple who sold social networking site Bebo for $850 million five years ago have bought back the company for just $1m and say they will relaunch it.
Michael Birch and his wife Xochi launched Bebo in 2005 after meeting at a university in London and the site became the destination of choice for teenagers to chat and share pictures, attracting 40 million users by 2008.
But as Facebook and Twitter began their rapid rise, Bebo fell out of fashion and by the time it was sold to AOL; analysts were warning that it was vastly overpriced.
AOL sold it on to investment fund Criterion Capital Partners in 2010 for a sum reported to be as low as $10m.
After buying back the now-bankrupt company, Michael Birch tweeted: “We just bought Bebo back for $1m. Can we actually re-invent it? Who knows, but it will be fun trying...”
The Birchs’ own high-tech development team, Monkey Inferno, will try to “breathe new life” into Bebo from offices in San Francisco, where the couple live with their three children, a statement said.
Monkey Inferno’s CEO Shaan Puri said: “We’re excited about the ambitious challenge of bringing Bebo back, and couldn’t be happier to announce that the product will be back in the hands of the founders.”
“We know the odds are stacked against us, but we love challenges and the Bebo users deserve better than what they have received the past few years.”
Other social networking sites have been forced to relaunch as their influence has faded. MySpace has been redesigned as has social news site Digg.
Michael and Xonchi Birch have not been sitting back and enjoying their riches, they are in the process of developing a private members’ club in San Francisco, based on similar clubs in London such as Soho House.
Called The Battery and housed in an old brick warehouse with spectacular views over San Francisco Bay, it will incorporate a restaurant, gym, a hot tub capable of accommodating 20 people, a library and a wine cellar.